Ric Ocasek’s death being fresh in my mind (September 15th) I feel like I should say something about the influence of his music here. As many times as I listened to The Cars music and loved it while listening to it, I can’t remember any particular song other than Moving in Stereo that I really felt spoke to me.
I played the hell out of that first album. Alone on the highway, wanting to spend one more hour away from home in Sweetwater. Anywhere but home in Sweetwater. All of the songs on the album were good, but Moving in Stereo‘s funky arrangement, along with the repeated verse,
Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereoThe Cars
Life’s the same except for my shoes
Life’s the same, you’re shaking like tremolo
Life’s the same, it’s all inside you
really spoke to the weirdness of teenage life for me. Had Talking Heads Remain in Light or Speaking in Tongues come out before 1980, that would have been one of the albums and groups I would have turned to for my music at the time. But they weren’t on the scene for me in 1978-1979, and Ric Ocasek and the Cars filled that need to express the restlessness of youth.
The restlessness of the almost-man but not yet man. As that almost-man the Vargas cover of their second album, Candy-O, said things to me that I didn’t understand at the time. The music on Candy-O, like the music on Panorama that followed it was solid pop rock. It just wasn’t that much different from their first album, which overshadowed them.
Then Shake it Up came out. The first side of the cassette was also predictable Cars-style pop music, much like work that they had done before. However, side two of the cassette that I bought started with A Dream Away and progressed through to the end and Maybe Baby. That cassette I also wore out, but mostly just one side of it. An experience lost to time now that you can get songs in whatever order you like but cannot experience the seamless flow of one melody into another melody without pause.
I later bought Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology on CD, before I started to switch to digital music, and discovered Little Black Egg. another song with that quirky weirdness that really speaks to me.
It was sad to see him go.